The Newton Network

In May 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony Attorney General Thomas Newton requested the transfer of eight prisoners to begin the Salem Witch Trials.  The scholarly consensus is the Newton began with Bridget Bishop as the first trials based on her history of witchcraft accusations.  She previously faced the charge twice and was acquitted both times.  However, the 1692 accusation came amidst the hysteria, so Bishop's escape for a third time was unlikely.  Newton saw the opportunity to open the trials with a quick and easy conviction, thereby convincing the judges to continuing convicting suspects.  It worked.  Bishop hanged on June 10, and the seven other suspects were also convicted throughout the trials.

The Newton Network takes on the same visual properties as the Master Network, so there is no need to rehash the simple visual analysis.  In short, Group 1 clearly dominates the network with its reach to the other groups that does not appear elsewhere.

The Newton Network and Eigenvector Centrality

Rather than consider the changes in names for the top Eigenvector scores in the Master Network and the Newton Network, here is the same graph of the top 15 Master Network scores adjusted to their values in this network.  This graph will explore how power shifted throughout the trials, and how power and influence changes with closer examination of important case files.

Note that the numbers between graphs are not comparable since they come from different networks, but the relationships between the sample is comparable since the individuals are the same.  The most notable difference is how the gradual decrease in score disappears from this group when the Eigenvector scores are replaced to match the Newton Network.  Rather than reorder the names, this staggered view shows how substantial changes were to the network.  There are 4 important ones.

1. Ann Putnam Jr. moved up to the highest score.

2. Thomas Putnam Jr. surpassed Rev. Samuel Parris.

3. Mary Warren saw a dramatic loss in her score.

4. Bartholomew Gedney lost nearly his entire score.

Ann Putnam Jr.'s score increase comes with an increase in several of the accusing girls.  The Eigenvector scores shift influence from the judges to the accusers in this graph.  It makes sense because Newton focused on cases he considered easy enough to win, so the accusers matter the most in this instance, not the judges.  Newton needed case files where few could question the authority of the accusers.  The power in this graph represents just how unquestionable the accusations were at the time.  Newton's strategy focused on the accusers, and specifically Ann Putnam Jr.'s accusations. Just the difference in Eigenvector scores between the first and second slots, Ann Putnam Jr. and Abigail Williams respectively, is greater than 311 of the 456 nodes in the graph, or the difference between Putnam's influence and William's influence in the network is greater than 68% of the network.  These young girls clearly receive a lot of influence from this entire event without any real challenge to their authority.  Newton even depended on this authority to push trials through for his own personal motivations. 

One curious point here is how Thomas Putnam Jr.'s Eigenvector beats Rev. Parris' score.  The accusations began in the home of Rev. Parris, but Parris and his niece Williams fall short to Putnams.  The Salem Witch Trials are not the story of how Rev. Parris' daughter and niece fell ill and started to make witchcraft accusations, but how Thomas Putnam Jr. and his daughter took advantage of the situation.  Thomas' Eigenvector increases here since in these cases, he wrote depositions for the afflicted girls, he filed complaints, and he attended nearly every event.  The Accusations section shows how Ann Putnam Jr.'s role in these cases was much more significant than the other accusers.

Mary Warren's loss of Eigenvector Centrality follows the same theme as the other two points.  The power shifted to the accusers, specifically Ann Putnam Jr., and left behind the accuser turned confessor.  Mary Warren's unique situation actually limited her influence.  Normally, the confessor was named before they started to accuse, but Warren named suspects first.  Once she recovered from the afflictions, the accusers claimed Warren only improved after joining the Devil herself.  Overall, this position on both side benefited Warren, but not when Newton prepared his cases.  Confessors lacked the same credibility as the afflicted.  If Newton wanted to, Warren, Tituba, Abigail Hobbes, Deliverance Hobbes, William Hobbes, and others in jail already confessed.  Newton had accusing witches in jail able to testify.  He requested the transfer of Tituba as a witness in his letter, but she never played a role in any of these cases.  It appears that Newton believed confessors would not win trials, accusers won trials.  The Hobbes women appeared in court to testify against Rebecca Nurse, and Nurse's response to their testimony provided the judges the opportunity to reverse the jury's initial acquittal, but Newton never indicated a strategy to win trials through confessors.

On Bartholomew Gedney's Eigenvector score, there is one thing to note.  He did not appear frequently in these case files, so his influence in this network is minimal.  This provides another example of how power shifted from court figures in each case file.  Within the entire trials, the court exerted vast influence, but within each case it decreased since accusations originated from outside the court room.  The examination of case files outside the Master Network allows the interpretation of external factors.  In the Newton Network, it shows the Putnam influence.

The Newton Network and Betweenness Centrality

Again, the Newton Network does not show a significant difference in interpretation of Betweenness Centrality from the Master Network.  The top scores belong to accused suspects: Rebecca Nurse, Elizabeth Procter, John Procter, Bridget Bishop, and Susannah Martin.  The role of neighbors, either for or against a suspect is diminished, and successful accusations depended on the Advancing Group accusations.  The only difference is here each case file was more likely to branch off into its own unique group given the smaller scale of the network.

However, one interesting point can be made here.  Ann Putnam Sr., the wife of Thomas Jr. and mother of Ann Jr. is the first accuser in the Betweenness order.  She accused few people, but her role, while important, is easily overlooked compared to girls accusing dozens of people.  This prompts a question, what is Ann Sr.'s role in the Salem Witch Trials?  She appears in the Rebecca Nurse Group with other Putnams, but she is the only Putnam in the group who did not sign a petition for Nurse.  In fact, Ann Sr. accused Nurse on March 19, before Nurse's arrest and examination.  This cluster placement suggest that Ann Putnam Sr. mattered in the accusation of Rebecca Nurse, but not in the advancement of the trials like those in the Advancing Group, which includes her husband, daughter, and maid Mercy Lewis.  Ann Sr. had the opportunity to join the Advancing Group and yield that influence, but did not.  It was not an issue of age since Sarah Bibber, at age 36, accused many people, but Ann Sr. at age 31 stayed out of the spotlight her daughter dominated.

  • Grey Google+ Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
  • Grey LinkedIn Icon
  • Grey Facebook Icon

© 2023 by Talking Business.  Proudly created with